Samsung appears to be getting ready to launch a new phone based on the Galaxy S5 handset that looks designed to compete with the next iPhone in terms of design and build quality as well as features and specifications.
Expected to launch on Sept. 12, the handset is set to see Samsung dump plastics in favour of a brushed metal casing which will wrap around a QHD display. According to @evleaks, as well as a premium exterior, the phone will also get the latest Qualcomm processor -- the Snapdragon 805, so it will boast some pretty serious video, graphics and imaging performance.
Although Apple has set the benchmark for premium design and premium materials when it comes to smartphones, some feel it is slipping in areas such as screen size and resolution. Although when polled, most consumers say that the most important feature they want in a smartphone is a long battery life, display size is also becoming important.
Increasing importance of display size
Over one third of new smartphone handsets shipped over the first three months of 2014 did so with a display of 5-inches or more. According to analyst firm Canalys, the figure represents a 369% jump in terms of demand based on the same period in 2013.
When those figures are broken down by type of smartphone, they are even more telling. Nearly half (47%) of premium phones -- i.e., those with a price tag of $500 or more when sold without a contract -- had a display measuring 5 inches or more. "Of the remaining 53% of high-end smart phones, 87% were iPhones. Apple plainly needs a larger-screen smart phone to remain competitive, and it will look to address this in the coming months," said Canalys Analyst Jessica Kwee.
But for the moment, consumers that want a premium handset with a bigger screen have two choices: go with an Android smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG 3G or HTC One; or wait until September to see if the next iPhone will offer a display greater than 4 inches.
And, according to the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, published Monday, some consumers that are usually loyal to Apple are running out of patience. In Europe's five major markets -- the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain -- 17% of people who bought the Samsung Galaxy S5 in May were dumping an iPhone to do so. Even in the U.S., where brand loyalty is at its strongest, 8% of Galaxy S5 buyers were switching from Apple.
Wait and see or buy now?
And while the S5 is a great phone in terms of specifications and performance, it is let down by its plastic design. By raising its game in this area; Samsung could very well offer consumers a true iPhone rival.
"The Samsung Galaxy S5 has had some success in attracting former iPhone owners across Europe. In general, consumers buying the Galaxy S5 were primarily attracted by its large screen size. This is something Apple is likely to address with the rumoured larger screen iPhone 6 launch expected in late September," said Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
However, Samsung's new phone could also be seen as a protection policy. According to a study conducted by the Royal Bank of Canada at the end of June, if the rumours are true and the next iPhone boasts a bigger, 4.7-inch display, it could steal customers from Samsung and other Android device makers. It found that 23% of all consumers planning to replace their handset this year and 35% of current or future Android handset owners would buy an iPhone if it had a bigger screen.
Nearly half (49%) of the 4,000 North American consumers surveyed by the bank's investment arm already intended getting an iPhone when the latest generation handset is launched this autumn. However, for the remaining 51% the biggest factors for going with one of Apple's competitors were price and screen size.